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Caring for yourself after birth

Taking care of your baby isn't your only duty as a new mom

After birth, your body goes through some very dramatic changes. The following information is designed to answer many of the questions you may have.

Activity

  • Rest and take naps often. It is normal to feel  tired. It is a good idea to rest when your baby is  sleeping. Let family members and friends help with  household chores.
  • Pamper yourself. Decide which jobs are most important.
  • Get some exercise. Daily walking is a good, relaxing exercise. Start with mild exercises and gradually add more exercise as you are able.
  • If you had a C-section, do not lift anything heavier than your baby for two to three weeks after the birth. Do not drive for at least two weeks.
  • Do not drive a car if you have severe pain or if you are taking pain pills.

Breast care

  • Avoid using soap on your nipples; soap is very drying
  • Wear a bra for support and comfort. You may find it more comfortable to wear your bra to bed.
  • Change breast pads when they are even just a little wet.
  • Wear a support bra and use ice packs to relieve pain from engorgement (breast swelling). If you are breast feeding, use a warm pack just before feedings. 

Bleeding

  • Bleeding may continue for three to six weeks. The flow should slowly lessen in amount. The color should change from bright red to dark brown to white.
  • Change pads often. Do not wear tampons.
  • Your flow may be heavier when you get up after you’ve been lying down, or after you breastfeed.
  • Periods may start about six weeks after birth. If you are breastfeeding, it may be longer before you begin having periods again.

Hygiene

  • Wash your hands often, especially before and after using the bathroom.
  • Take a bath or shower every day using soap. 
  • Be sure to wash your perineum (bottom).

Care of perineum (bottom)

  • You may spray your bottom with warm water each time you go to the bathroom. Use the squirt bottle you received in the hospital.
  • Always wipe from front to back.
  • Change your pad every time you use the bathroom.
  • Do not douche.

Stitches (episiotomy)

  • Stitches will dissolve in about three to six weeks.
  • You may feel soreness and itching during healing.
  • If your doctor ordered a spray or foam for you to use in the hospital, continue to use it when you get home until it is gone.

Cesarean sections

  • Pat your scar (incision) dry after your bath or shower.
  • Allow your scar to air dry for a few minutes before you dress.
  • Wear loose clothing over your scar.

Proper diet

  • Eat a well-balanced diet. This is very important to both you and your baby. You should eat different healthy foods such as meat, eggs, dried beans, milk, cheese, fruits, vegetables, bread, cereal and pastas. 
  • Eat whole grain products, raw fruits and vegetables for fiber. This will avoid constipation. 
  • Avoid junk foods.
  • Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

Kegel (pelvic muscles) exercise

  • Tighten your pelvic muscles, as if you were stopping the fl ow of urine.
  • Hold to a count of five, then release. Repeat this 10 times.
  • Do this exercise 10 times a day.
  • You may do this anywhere and anytime.
  • Continue this exercise for the rest of your life. It will prevent leakage of urine.

Postpartum blues

  • Emotional changes are common. The changes in your body and changes in your life may sometimes make you feel sad or depressed.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Talk about your feelings to other family members or close friends.
  • Tell your doctor if you begin to feel extremely sad or if the “blues” last longer than the first three weeks.

Sexual relations

  • Talk to your doctor about when you can begin having sex.
  • Pregnancy may result as soon as you begin having sex.
  • If you have had a measles shot while in the hospital, you should avoid becoming pregnant for three months. It may cause birth defects if you become pregnant again within three months.

Medicines

  • If you are taking prescription pain pills, do not drive a car or drink alcohol.
  • Ask your lactation consultant about any medicines you are taking to be sure it is safe to breastfeed.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Chills and/or fever of 100.4°F or higher.
  • Increased soreness in the uterus (womb).
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding with large egg-size clots or bad smell.
  • Swollen or very sore stitches, with bad smell  or pus.
  • Any redness, pus-like drainage or opening of your C-section scar.
  • Severe pain or swelling in your thigh or calf.
  • Pain or burning while urinating or urinating small amounts.
  • Soreness or red, hot areas in the breast after milk comes in (engorgement).
  • Anything that makes you feel worse in any way.

Follow-up care

Call your doctor’s office the day you get home to  make your appointment.